The person who votes for 24 as their game of the year needs to straddle two camps. Firstly, they need to be fans of the series, its fast plot trickery and the occasional, sizeable plot holes it leaves in its wake. Secondly, they need to be proper students of the old Ocean Software school of movie and TV licences. Those who were gaming through the 80s and 90s will understand: you break a licence down into a series of thinly related mini-games, making each of them quick enough to not let you think about it all too much.
Still, before we go too far down that road, some essential information for 24 virgins. The show on which this game is based works on the concept of 24 episodes per season, each of which is an hour on the same day. Thus the action of the show supposedly works in real time, and much of it becomes a race against the clock.
It’s set in the Los Angeles Counter Terrorist Unit, and hangs off Jack Bauer, a ruthlessly unconventional agent played by Kiefer Sutherland. Sutherland, as with all the key cast, lends his voice and likeness to the game, and that instantly gives it some added credibility. Fortunately, there’s plenty more sitting in its corner, and it quickly becomes clear that this isn’t the cash-in that many were fearing.
Scripted by the team behind the show, and full of the classic staple diets of a good episode of 24, there are two main ticks in the plus column here; variety and pace. Throughout the course of the game there’s an abundance of little tasks to accomplish, all with that big 24 ticking clock to consider, and if there’s some area of the game you don’t warm to, you needn’t be too concerned as it won’t be long until the developers throw something else at you. The sheer level of energy that drives the game, together with the substantial glue of the intriguing, 24-style storyline, really does make for some fun gaming.
It doesn’t, sadly, fully shield the game’s problems though. With over 100 missions to tackle, there’s little here that you can dwell on for any length of time. Likewise, much of what you need to do is quite basic. The terrorists you face display little in the way of convincing AI and the generally simplistic gameplay has nothing to it that you won’t have seen plenty of times before. And, in many cases, done better.
Yet, perhaps because we’re such fans of the series, we had a kind regard for 24: The Game. It’s hard to justify spending £40 on it, and we’d recommend waiting around for a price drop before you even consider buying it. But, thanks to a structure that clearly ties in very tightly to the source material, 24 works very well as a licence, even if it doesn’t always hit the mark as a game. It’s at least worth a rental.